Madera County Sheriff Deputies bust 17 acre marijuana grow

September 6, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
It was a busy week for sheriff deputies in Madera County as they worked to destroy a massive marijuana grow. The operation started Wednesday in a rural neighborhood a short distance from Highway 99 in Madera.

Agents have seized more than 7,000 fully budded marijuana plants along with close to 500 grams of processed marijuana. But the investigation isn't over. The exact location of the grow is not being released due to an ongoing investigation, as well as the days of clean-up that still follow what deputies are calling a "marathon mission."

So far the department has detained and released six people for violating the county ordinance. Friday at least two people returned to the site, which has neighbors nervous.

Madera County families are fed up with the number of illegal marijuana grows showing up near their homes.

"What really concerns me is the groundwater, what they've put into the groundwater that's quarter-mile from my house," neighbor Claire Casteel said.

And not just because of the harsh chemicals, trash and other threats to the environment, but because of the element of danger the pot grows typically bring to their neighborhoods.

"Obviously it's going to sales and not where it's supposed to be, it's not for medical marijuana use that's for sure," Casteel said.

Madera County sheriff deputies discovered this grow on Wednesday after nearby farmers reported suspicious activity taking place near Highway 99.

After flying over in a sheriff's helicopter, more than 20 drug agents took to the ground, working through the scorching heat to pull out thousands of plants growing in a garden the size of 17 football fields.

"They were good plants, fully budded out and I think we ruined their day," John Anderson, the Madera County Sheriff said.

Sheriff Anderson says the owner of the property leased the land to as many as six Southeast Asians from Fresno and Sacramento counties. While the group had a placard for medical marijuana, the garden was surrounded by a wall of corn stalks and a several plywood huts were positioned throughout the site. Each hut was armed with motion detector systems and surrounded by tripwire, so the growers would know when someone entered their illicit operation.

"Maybe there are people that need medicine to control pain, but they don't' need 10,000 plants out here and if it was totally legit and legal why would they try to conceal it with corn rows around the outside," Anderson said.

Anderson says the county ordinance requires grows to be covered and contained within a 120 square foot enclosure like a bedroom, greenhouse or shed. He says it appears this group managed to maintain the outdoor grow for several months, not only paying rent but buying water to cultivate their 17 acre site.

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